Pac-12 set to crown cross country champions Friday in Tucson
SAN FRANCISCO - The Pac-12 Conference will crown its first champions of 2016-17 this Friday morning as ARIZONA hosts the 2016 Pac-12 Cross Country Championships at Randolph North Golf Course in Tucson.
This Friday's league title event marks the fourth time the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships have been held in the state of Arizona, and just the second time hosted by the University of Arizona in Tucson following the 2005 races on the Randolph Dell Urich course where STANFORD swept both team titles.
8:00 a.m. - Championship Course opens to fans
9:10 a.m. - National Anthem
9:15 a.m. - Women called to start
9:25 a.m. - Women’s final instructions
9:30 a.m. - Start of women’s 6,000m race
10:15 a.m. - Men called to start
10:25 a.m. - Men’s final instructions
10:30 a.m. - Start of men’s 8,000m race
11:10 a.m. - Awards ceremony
Tape-delayed coverage of the championships will air on the Pac-12 Networks on Monday, Oct. 31, 2016 at 6 p.m. PT. Dwight Stones (Analyst), Jim Watson (PxP) and Lewis Johnson (Reporter) will call the action.
Randolph North Golf Course – 600 S. Alvernon Way Tucson, AZ 85711 - is the competition site for the 2016 Pac-12 Cross Country Championships. The course will be all grass with some golf cart path crossings. There are numerous small hills throughout. The women’s race will include 3 loops and the men’s race will include 4 loops. The loop is approx. 2000m with the start line being approx. 400ft and the finish line approx. 300ft of open field.
Two overarching storylines headline the 48th annual Pac-12 Championship men’s race. Many eyes will be on OREGON senior Edward Cheserek, who is seeking to become the first four-time individual race champion in Pac-12 Men’s Cross Country Championship history. He’s currently tied with league and distance running legends Steve Prefontaine (OREGON, 1970-71 & 1973) and Henry Rono (WASHINGTON STATE, 1976 & 1978-79) with three conference crowns. Cheserek is also the sport’s three-time defending national champion.
The Pac-12’s only other four-time cross country champion is ARIZONA alumna Amy Skieresz (1995-98), who is slated to join 1998 men’s champion and fellow Wildcat Abdi Abdirahman in presenting the Championship awards at the conclusion of Friday’s races.
Others will be eyeing the top of the team leaderboard where No. 7 COLORADO - one of the Pac-12’s national-best six ranked squads and four top-10 teams along with No. 2 STANFORD, No. 3 OREGON and No. 10 UCLA - is seeking to match STANFORD’s record streak of six consecutive Pac-12 team titles set from 2000-05. The Buffaloes have captured the conference crown in each of their five appearances at the event since joining the league in 2011.
Only three teams have claimed the Pac-12 crown over the past 16 seasons, with STANFORD owning eight titles, COLORADO five and OREGON three over that span. The last team to unseat that trio was ARIZONA in 1999.
Six other past NCAA All-Americans will try to prevent Cheserek’s Pac-12 title quartet in COLORADO’s John Dressel (2015) and Ben Saarel (2013-15), STANFORD’s Grant Fisher (2015), Sean McGorty (2014-15) and Sam Wharton (2014), and WASHINGTON’s Colby Gilbert (2015).
OREGON’s Travis Neuman and WASHINGTON STATE’s John Whelan and Michael Williams join Cheserek (2013-15), Dressel (2015), Fisher (2015), McGorty (2014-15) and Saarel (2013-14) as past Pac-12 All-Conference performers in this year’s race.
The 31st annual Pac-12 Championship women’s race could be the most competitive in history as a national-best seven teams enter Friday’s race ranked in the top 30 - led by three teams in the top 5 in newly appointed No. 1 COLORADO, No. 2 WASHINGTON and No. 5 OREGON.
All three teams registered strong showings against national fields two weekends ago. The Buffaloes and Ducks finished first and second at the Pre-National Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind., while the Huskies cruised to victory at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational.
No. 11 STANFORD only recently slid outside the national top 10 and should contend for the crown as well. No. 17 UTAH, No. 23 UCLA and No. 25 CALIFORNIA all made significant jumps in the most recent national poll thanks to solid showings at the Nuttycombe (Utah 7th, UCLA 13th) and Pre-Nationals (Cal 8th) and could all push for their first Pac-12 titles.
Should top ranked COLORADO prevail, it would mark the first repeat conference champion since WASHINGTON captured back-to-back crowns in 2008 and 2009.
Only five schools have laid claim to the Pac-12 crown with STANFORD winning 15 times, OREGON nine times, WASHINGTON three times, COLORADO twice and ARIZONA once.
Six past NCAA All-Americans return to the Championship fold in CALIFORNIA’s Bethan Knights (2014), COLORADO’s Kaitlyn Benner (2015) and Erin Clark (2014-15), OREGON’s Alli Cash (2015), and STANFORD’s Elise Cranny (2014) and Vanessa Fraser (2015).
Joining that sextet are additional past Pac-12 All-Conference performers in CALIFORNIA’s Marissa Williams (2015), COLORADO’s Melanie Nun (2013 & 2015), OREGON’s Frida Berge (2014-15), STANFORD’s Emma Fisher (2014), UCLA’s Carolina Johnson (2015) and UTAH’s Hannah McInturff (2015).